Tuesday 7 February 2012

'My Beautiful Life' fashion show in Dhaka, Bangladesh

On my first night in Dhaka I was lucky enough to be able to attend a high profile fashion show held at the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel. In aid of acid burn victims there were over 200 guests in the audience ready to part with their hard-earned cash for a good cause.
Comprised of a fashion show lasting a good hour, followed by an auction and then dinner, this was a fashion show like no other. A true spectacle, there was regional tribal dancing between each section of the catwalk showcase and live music to conclude by internationally acclaimed artists Rupankar and Pintu Ghosh, with the extravaganza broadcast live on Desh TV.
Although fashionably late myself and Eeshita - of the British Council - were escorted past the cameras and to a table right in front of the catwalk, giving us some of the best seats in the house, so close to the runway that I could feel the heat of the lights. With a star host for the evening, there were several famous faces of Bangladeshi TV and Bollywood actresses, Paoli Dham, Locket Chatterjee, and Rituporna Sen to name but a few who took to the catwalk in aid of charity.
Organised by Indian fashion designer Agnimitra Paul, the mood was jovial with Dhaka’s elite out in full-force wearing their most beautiful clothes. The catwalk show itself was spectacular with rich colours and textures of soft cotton, georgette and Jamdani like I’ve never seen before, with models swathed in a diverse selection of hand-painted and hand-embroidered fabrics, worn in the form of the national dress, the sari.
When highlighted by my companion I discovered that there was a clear divide in the styles represented on the catwalk. Saris from eastern Bangladesh were beautifully understated and showcased traditional crafts beautifully in subtle colours that were undeniably elegant. In contrast designers from west Bangladesh used a lot of gold and silver in their collections (in a variety of flashy fabrics, sequins and trims [“par”]), creating undeniably beautiful pieces, which were reminiscent of couture in the sense that they were so OTT they were impractical at best, unless of course you are a Bollywood actress with a plethora of events at which to dazzle!
Hair was elegant and understated in buns and twists, frequently decorated with floral hairpieces and slides, adding extra colour and femininity at every opportunity. Make-up was thick for the TV cameras, however models still looked gorgeous, with heavily made-up eyes in a kaleidoscope of bright shades. All lips were red and skin demure and pale.
What impressed me most about the evening was how it celebrated a diverse selection of Bangladeshi fashion and I can’t think of a better possible introduction to the industry in Dhaka. I loved how it was treated as a big party with jovial models clearly happy to be taking part and donating their time and a British auctioneer who, although kept eyeing me suspiciously, was hilariously trying to induce higher bids, mishearing cash announcements from the audience and looking forlorn when the brashier looks from the west and less traditional outfits sadly received no bids.
Sponsored by Gallery Apex and a renowned menswear brand it is unclear at this stage how much taka was raised on the night, however several beautiful saris sold for 30 – 40,000 taka each. To add to the excitement of the evening there were several bidding wars which saw one woman win on two occasions paying 200,000 and 230,000 for two saris – the equivalent of £1,500 and £1,700 respectively.

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